Michael Mantha MPP, Algoma–Manitoulin

Government of Ontario

News from the Park - March 4, 2022 _ Ontarians must embrace their responsibility to observe, stay informed and be engaged in our democratic system of government.

Published on March 7, 2022

We must not and cannot allow ourselves to let our guard down as has happened in Russia, where democracy was permitted to be eroded by power-hungry leaders and oligarchs’ sleight of hand.

The recent attack by the Russians upon the people of Ukraine cannot help but make us recoil at the horrendous suffering and needless deaths that are taking place. There is no doubt around the world that the unprovoked attack is the act of Russian leadership without conscience or moral fortitude. Canadians are witnessing on the news, thousands of women and children, seniors and vulnerable Ukrainians fleeing for their lives, leaving men of fighting age behind. One can’t help but wonder how many have said their last goodbyes to their loved ones. Our hearts and prayers are certainly with these families.

At times like this, Canadians come to realize the incredible freedoms we enjoy with our democracy. However, as content and secure as we may feel, we are not always aware of our responsibility to observe, stay informed and be engaged in our democratic system of government.

In the early 90s, the people of Russia had voting rights. But in 1992, Russian President Boris Yeltsin convinced the people that their constitution was outdated and needed restructuring. He convinced the nation to increase the powers of the president. At the same time, the world witnessed a Russian government that claimed many political dissenters and religious groups as extremists. Such groups were subject to a steady stream of human rights violations, voter suppression tactics and rigging of elections.

Enter current Russian President Vladimir Putin, who continued the master manipulation to extend the presidential powers and term of office. He orchestrated his term to extend until at least 2036, when he will be 84 years old, meaning he will have realized a term of office spanning 37 years. In looking at Putin’s brazen challenge to the entire Western World, it is clear that his power is almost omnipotent.

One can’t help but wonder if there is any possible way for a similar scenario to repeat itself here in Canada or Ontario. Whether it is possible or not is clearly up for debate. However, the good news is that if voters fulfill their obligation to elect responsible multi-party governments, which in turn to their jobs, it is not likely Ontario will ever experience any semblance of a comparable scenario. 

Canada is a confederation of provinces, with a government based upon the British House of Parliament. The party with the most members elected forms the government, while the party with the second most forms the Official Loyal Opposition. The primary purpose of the Opposition is to keep the government in check and provide alternative viewpoints and alternatives.

It is important to note that the word loyal is included in the title because it conveys the concept that, even though the second party’s ideology and proposals may contrast the sitting government’s, in the end, the Opposition is charged to be as loyal to the Crown as the government. All members elected are sworn to be loyal to the Crown and the citizens who elected them.

I often hear people lamenting that they are tired of listening to the Opposition’s constant negativity or being wary of its consistent alternative policies and legislative proposals. I can’t help but think that such people do not truly understand the critical role of both parties in making democracy work. As a province and society, we need to do a better job of teaching our youth that a democratic government works on the principle of checks, balances and accountability. Politics is not about theatrics and power. It’s about doing what is right for all people. 

Canadians across the country have two national fundamentals to which they hold special pride:

1) Hockey IS Canada’s game and

2) Commitment to free universal healthcare

In regard to the claim that we are the Mecca of hockey, there is little to debate. Canada reigns supreme in hockey.

Unfortunately, Ontario’s commitment to free universal healthcare has been put in jeopardy by successive Liberal and Conservative governments. In fact, the Ford government inadvertently let slip recently that they intend to start loosening the strings on privatized healthcare to permit certain types of facilities and procedures.   But like everything else in life, once a door is opened, it’s a slippery slope leading to fully privatized healthcare

In early February of this year, Health Minister Christine Elliott spoke during a press conference about the reopening of Ontario. During the press conference, Elliott was addressing questions about the backlog of operations and medical treatment when she stated, “We’re opening up pediatric surgeries, cancer screenings, making sure we can let independent health facilities operate private hospitals; all of those things are possible because we do have the capacity.”

Officials from numerous associations and colleges were shocked by this stealth missile-like statement, seeing it as a preview of a Conservative government’s plans for privatization. It foretells of a  continuation of their 2019 Bill 74 – Connecting Care Act which would fund Health Service Providers and Ontario Health Teams to provide funding to patients to purchase and manage their own care. The Conservatives also want to give the cabinet the power to make changes to regulations and policies at any time without all-party debate or public consultation.

Ontarians can ill-afford to be complacent in protecting their rights and values. It is the duty of us all to be on watch, stay informed and be engaged in protecting what is most dear to us – be it our education system, social services, care for our most vulnerable or even our healthcare system. 

The philosopher John Stewart Mill in a speech delivered in 1867, said: “Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. He is not a good man who, without a protest, allows wrong to be committed in his name, and with the means which he helps to supply, because he will not trouble himself to use his mind on the subject.

Ontario’s public healthcare system is the envy of millions around the world. Thankfully, Ontarians realize the inestimable value of the system both to our economic and societal strength and success. Tommy Douglas and the New Democrats were the architects of a publicly funded healthcare system that is the envy of the free world. The Ontario NDP has been effective watchdogs under successive Liberal and Conservative governments. As the Loyal Opposition, we have held each government accountable to the people of Ontario. As a government in waiting, we commit to maintaining and building upon what we have by bringing in universal pharmacare and dental care. 

We must not and cannot allow ourselves to let our guard down as has happened in Russia, where democracy was permitted to be eroded by power-hungry leaders and oligarchs’ sleight of hand. All of us must stay informed and engaged in protecting our democratic society.

As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at [email protected] or phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll-free at 1-800-831-1899.

Michael Mantha MPP/député 

Algoma-Manitoulin